New York Islanders

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Isles start busy offseason by re-signing Eberle

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The New York Islanders took care of some business on Friday morning, as they’ve signed Jordan Eberle to a five-year contract extension. According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, the contract is worth a total of $27.5 million ($5.5 million AAV).

The 29-year-old had 19 goals and 37 points in 78 games during the regular season, which isn’t overly impressive given his offensive skillset, but he made up for it in the playoffs where he scored four goals and nine points in eight contests.

As difficult as Eberle’s regular season was, this seems like a pretty good contract for the Islanders. After all, the veteran is just one year removed from a season that saw him put up 25 goals and 59 points in 81 games. So getting him for $500,000 less per year than he made on his previous contract seems like good business for the team.

Here are the specifics of the contract via CapFriendly:

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello has a number of questions that need to be answered this off-season, but he’s now taken care of one of them. Lamoriello still has to sign restricted free agent Anthony Beauvillier to a new contract and he also has to find a way to bring back captain Anders Lee and goaltender Robin Lehner. Both veterans are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.

Money shouldn’t be an issue for the Isles this offseason, as they still have over $22 million in projected cap space. The issue will be convincing Lee and Lehner to stay at reasonable salaries and trying to get potential unrestricted free agents to agree to join the group.

The Islanders were one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season. Under Barry Trotz, they were able to make the playoffs and bounce the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. But in order to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference, they’ll have to add to their current group.

Will Lou be able to add some talent this summer?

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Islanders sign Brock Nelson to six-year contract

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After a stunning 2018-19 NHL season that saw them reach Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the New York Islanders have some big work ahead of them this summer as they not only work to add some firepower to their lineup, but also keep some of their most important players in place.

Forwards Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, and Brock Nelson — three of the team’s top-five scorers this season — as well as Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner are all eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. That is a lot of big names to keep while also maintaining enough flexibility under the salary cap to build around them.

On Thursday, they made sure at least one of those players will remain with the team when they announced a six-year contract extension for Nelson.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed by the Islanders, but it is reportedly worth $6 million per season according to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple.

The 27-year-old Nelson is coming off of a career-year that saw him score 25 goals (second best on the team) and finish with 53 total points (third on the team).

Originally a first-round pick (No. 30 overall) by the Islanders in 2010, Nelson’s career has been about as steady and consistent as a player can be. He has missed just 12 games since entering the NHL during the 2013-14 season (with 10 of those coming during his rookie season) and has been a lock for at least 20 goals and 40 points every season. You know he is going to be in the lineup and you know pretty much exactly what you are going to get from him offensively.

Is that level of production worth $6 million per year? It might be pushing it and it might be a slight overpay from a team standpoint, but the Islanders didn’t really have many other options here. If they had let Nelson walk they would have needed someone to replace him and there weren’t many (if any) realistic options on the free agent market that are going to outperform Nelson for a better price, and they only have five draft picks in their 2019 class to use as trade chips.

With Nelson’s contract now completed, the Islanders have 17 players under contract for the 2019-20 season at a total salary cap hit of $53.7 million. Assuming an $83 million salary cap that still leaves them with more than $29 million in cap space to fill out the remainder of their roster.

That should be more than enough to re-sign Lee, Eberle and Lehner if they choose, while also working out new deals for restricted free agents Anthony Beauvillier and Michael Dal Colle.

Mathew Barzal, who has one-year remaining on his entry-level contract, will also be eligible to sign a new contract on July 1.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Islanders optimistic after turnaround despite playoff exit

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Despite getting swept in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the New York Islanders know they made big strides in their turnaround first season under president and general manager Lou Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz.

Predicted by many experts to miss the playoffs for the ninth time in 12 seasons, the Islanders led the Metropolitan Division for a big chuck of the middle of the season before finishing second at 48-27-7. They followed up their surprising season with a four-game sweep of Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs when everything seemed to be going their way.

After waiting 10 days to start the next round, nothing went New York’s way as the Islanders couldn’t rediscover their scoring touch and were swept by Carolina.

”It didn’t end the way we wanted it, and that’s the part that’s going to sting for a while there,” captain Anders Lee said Monday as the team packed up for the summer at its practice facility in East Meadow, New York. ”Those are the kinds of things, the obstacles that individually and as a group power you through the summer and motivate you and bring you back in the fall to be better.”

Now, after a 13-win improvement over the previous year – keyed by the defensive-minded system in Trotz’s first year with the team – they head into the offseason with some tough personnel decisions looming as they try to build on their success.

”A lot of stuff we set out to do, we did,” Trotz said. ”There was some disappointment where we didn’t go farther than we did. … We started with becoming a competitive team from the get-go that had a good foundation in terms of work ethic, structure, accountability. This group was a special group because they dug in all year. There wasn’t a lot expected from this group and they proved a lot of people wrong.”

However, with several key players – including forwards Lee, Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson, and goalie Robin Lehner – headed for free agency, and the need to add a big scorer, the team could have a different look when the players return for training camp in September.

”They did a tremendous job this year,” Lamoriello said of the impending unrestricted free agents. ”We’re going to have to see exactly how we can fit them all in. We’d like them all back, without question. But they have to make decisions and we have to make decisions. … We’ll do the best we can.”

Lee seamlessly stepped into the captain’s role following the departure of John Tavares to his hometown Maple Leafs in free agency last summer. Now, it’s Lee’s turn to be free after wrapping up the final season of a four-year, $15 million deal, after finishing with 28 goals and 23 assists.

Following a 23-year stretch in which the Islanders didn’t advance past the first round of the playoffs, they made it to the second round for the second time in four years.

”It’s not good enough just to win once in a while and make the playoffs once every couple of years,” second-year star center Mathew Barzal said. ”We want to be consistent in that, really put the Islanders back on the map as a contending team.”

Some other things to know as the Islanders head into the offseason:

BETWEEN THE PIPES

Goaltending proved to be the team’s biggest strength after Lehner was signed to pair with Thomas Greiss. Lehner openly talked about his personal issues dealing with panic attacks, alcohol and drug addiction, and also bipolar disorder, ADHD and PTSD when he joined the team and credited the organization and his new teammates with giving him support.

Greiss and Lehner were solid all season, sharing the William Jennings Trophy for the team allowing the fewest goals in the league. Greiss is under contract for next season, and Lehner finished a one-year, $1.5 million deal he signed last summer. Lehner said his agent hasn’t had any talks with Lamoriello during the season.

SCORING HELP

Under Trotz, the Islanders went from giving up the most goals in the league a year ago (293) to allowing the fewest this season (191). However, the defensive-minded system also saw their scoring drop from seventh (261) to 22nd (223). In addition to Lee and Nelson, Barzal (18 goals, 44 assists) and Josh Bailey (16 goals, 40 assists) also had 50-point seasons.

Generating offense wasn’t a problem during the season or against Pittsburgh, but it was a big factor in the losses to Carolina as New York totaled just five goals in the four games.

FREE AGENTS

In addition to Lee, Nelson, Eberle and Lehner, the Islanders have several other players who will be free agents.

Valtteri Filppula (17 goals, 14 assists) and Tom Kuhnhackl (four goals, five assists in 39 games) will be unrestricted after making strong contributions in their first seasons in New York, and youngsters Anthony Beauvillier (18 goals, 10 assists), Michael Dal Colle and Tanner Fritz are restricted free agents.

Among the top free agents available the Islanders could target include Columbus’ Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene, and Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner.

WAITING FOR BELMONT

The Islanders just finished the first season of an expected three-year arrangement to split home games between the Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center while a new arena is built next to the horse racing track at Belmont. Playoff games were also split between the venues, with the first round at the renovated old Coliseum, and the second round (and any subsequent round if they had advanced) at Barclays.

Construction at the new site is expected to begin soon, and despite some local opposition to the construction, Lamoriello was confident the arena will be built.

”I don’t have any question,” he said. ”I would not have come here if there wasn’t going to be a new arena.”

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Follow Vin Cherwoo at http://www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP

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What will Lehner’s next contract look like?

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The 2018-19 season may not have ended the way Robin Lehner had hoped, but there’s no denying that he was one of the pleasant surprises in the NHL this season.

Despite suiting up in just 46 games, the 27-year-old played well enough to be one of the three nominees for the Vezina Trophy. He finished the regular season with a 25-13-5 record, a 2.13 goals-against-average and a .930 save percentage. Not bad for a guy who signed a one-year, $1.5 million with the Islanders last summer.

Here’s the big question: Will the Islanders commit to Lehner long term?

“It’s a little bit too much emotions right now,” Lehner said after the Isles were eliminated from the playoffs, per NHL.com. “I really like everyone here. This group is incredible, some of the best people I’ve been around. I’ve been in the League for a while now. We’ll see what God has in store for me.”

Even though the Islanders were swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no one can really blame Lehner for the end result. He allowed just three goals in the first two games of the series and his team still couldn’t find a way to score enough to get themselves at least one victory.

So he had a good year and his story is an inspirational one, but how much term and money can you commit to a goaltender who played less than 50 games?

Thomas Greiss also managed to post strong numbers whenever he was between the pipes for the Isles. So were the goalies that good or was Barry Trotz’s system the real reason for their success?

As Paul Campbell from The Athletic and In Goal Magazine pointed out during this radio interview, Lehner was ranked second when it came to easiest quality of shots faced throughout the 2018-19 season. That means that the danger of the shots he faced weren’t as high as virtually every other starting netminder outside of Stars goalie Ben Bishop. So Trotz’s system definitely played a part in Lehner’s success.

There are a few things he should consider before he hits the market on July 1st. First, he’s played for Ottawa and Buffalo but he clearly became comfortable in New York. Could he get more money from another team? Yes, but being in a good environment on the ice should count for something. And most of the good teams in the league already have their starting goaltender in place. So leaving the Islanders would probably result in him going to an inferior team.

Second, he has to realize that as good as his season was, he still made less than 50 appearances. Would he be as effective if he had to play 55 or 60-plus games in a season? We don’t know for sure, but that would be a big gamble for a player looking for stability from an NHL club.

Lastly, sometimes you just need to realize that the situation you’re in might be the best fit for you. Lehner has opened up about personal demons that have haunted him over the last few years. In New York, he seems to have found the right balance between hockey and his personal life. Situations like this are difficult enough and moving to another city may only make it tougher.

So, assuming the Isles want him back and assuming he wants to be back, what’s a fair contract for both sides?

It would be mildly surprising to see New York commit to Lehner for more than three years. As well as he played this year, the sample size just isn’t big enough to garner a five-plus year contract. If he can get that type of deal, good for him. It just isn’t likely. On the flip side, he’ll likely want more than a one or two-year contract, so let’s say they agree to a three-year deal. That appears to make sense on the surface.

One comparable that comes to mind is Cam Talbot, who played 36 games with the New York Rangers in 2015-16. During that season, Talbot had a 21-9-4 record with a 2.21 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage. He was also the same age as Lehner is now. That performance resulted in the Edmonton Oilers giving him a three-year extension worth $12.5 million ($4.16 AAV).

The Islanders have to realize that even though Trotz’s system helped their goalies out a lot, they still managed to find a guy that could produce results for them between the pipes. There’s no guarantee that the next guy you bring in will be able to do the same thing. So they have to be willing to fork out a decent amount of money too.

Since Lehner has way more experience than Talbot at the same age and he had a better season, you’d think that his deal would be worth more.

How about a three-year deal worth between $14.25 million and $15 million ($4.75 million to $5 million per season)? That gives Lehner some stability and a nice raise. If he continues to get better, he’d be scheduled to hit the open market again at 30 years old.

That seems reasonable.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Canes’ van Riemsdyk out 4-6 months after shoulder surgery

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk is expected to miss the rest of the playoffs after having shoulder surgery.

General manager Don Waddell said Saturday that the 27-year-old van Riemsdyk underwent surgery on his left shoulder and is expected to miss four to six months.

The Hurricanes recalled defenseman Jake Bean from their AHL affiliate in Charlotte on an emergency basis.

Van Riemsdyk was hurt in the first period of Game 2 of the second-round sweep of the New York Islanders last Sunday. He played in the first nine games of the postseason for Carolina, which has advanced to the Eastern Conference final in its first playoff appearance since 2009.

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